Letter to the Editor

A reader calls into question the use
of a word

Bill Carey

The following is a Letter to the Editor regarding an article posted this month titled “Vigilance in the New World” about remaining focused on our duty in a time of virus information overload.  We appreciate readers’ views and encourage them to always participate in constructive dialogue online and on social media.

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I am writing in response to the 4.11.20 article entitled “We can’t forget that we are firemen first.”

First, I’d like to say that I greatly appreciated the article.  It provides insight to new situational awareness concerns, a reminder to remain diligent in the face of new fire service challenges, and a gut-check that we as first responders signed up to handle emergencies for others, and those same incidents cannot be emergencies for us.

What prompted me to respond is the title of the piece. 

I have been a full-time paid professional firefighter for 20 years, and I am very proud of my service.  I have been inspired by men and women in this career, and while being a firefighter is not what I always wanted to do with my life, I cannot imagine having followed another path.  I have loved every minute of it.  I have had very few instances when I did not feel welcomed and included as a female in the fire service, and the crews that I have worked with will remain life-long family and brothers to me.

I have rarely been as sensitive to the language surrounding the fire service as I probably should have been.  I will never correct a grade-school teacher for calling me a fireman, it is not meant disrespectfully when this happens.  At the same time, I feel I can judge character and intention enough to know when someone might call me a fireman and intend disrespect.  While this might be an incredibly infrequent occurrence, it is either ignorance or intolerance that prompts such behavior, and I feel confident I could handle accordingly per the situation.

The article at hand was categorized as a Leadership piece, but I feel the title chosen detracts from the full impact it could have had.  If leadership is at the core of this article, then it has failed to lead all, by not being intentionally inclusive.  I know there once was a time when the term “fireman” was inclusive of all in the fire service.  But I feel we miss the opportunity to lead our current workforce if we don’t recognize the contributions that have been made since those times, the ever-changing composition of that workforce, and that the entire workforce wants and needs to be led.

Thank you for the opportunity to share an opinion with you, and for everything you contribute to the fire service.

Carrie Stewart
Austin Fire Department
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Look for the opportunity to share your views on this subject in next month’s Roundtable. Send them to William.Carey@clarionevents.com

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